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Committed Representation Against Your Child Abuse Charges

In Florida, some of the most aggressively prosecuted crimes are those involving children and child abuse. Child abuse, aggravated child abuse and neglect of a child are serious allegations that have severe penalties if a person is convicted.

At the Finkelstein Firm, P.A., in Clearwater, I know what is at stake in these cases. My name is Jenna Finkelstein, and I do everything in my power to help my clients earn the optimal outcomes in their defense cases, including beating the charges, minimizing them or dismissing them.

Guidance Through All Forms Of Charges

More recently, I am hearing about parents and/or guardians being prosecuted for leaving their children in hot vehicles. Sadly, some of these incidents have resulted in death. When the child does not die, the parent may still be prosecuted for some form of child abuse/child neglect depending on whether the child suffered from any injuries and, if so, what the extent of those injuries is.

A person may be charged with child abuse, aggravated child abuse or neglect of a child. Leaving a child in a hot vehicle is just one example of a reason why someone may be accused of child abuse. The charges are outlined below:

  • The intentional infliction of physical or mental injury upon a child
  • An intentional act that could reasonably be expected to result in physical or mental injury to a child
  • Active encouragement of any person to commit an act that results in or could reasonably be expected to result in physical or mental injury to a child

The child abuse laws are written to cover a broad range of intentional acts against a child, whether physical or mental. Mental abuse can come in different forms and is often more difficult to detect and prove, especially if the child is younger.

How Schools Apply To These Cases

If the child is in school, then teachers are typically the first (outside of close family members and friends) to be able to detect that mental abuse is occurring, especially if they are trained in mental health.

It is also very common for school officials to notice bruises and/or injuries on children who are attending schools. Teachers are mandatory reporters. If your child goes to school with bruising that causes concern and/or suspicion for the school official, the incident must be reported.

Charges Related To DUI

You may be arrested for child abuse if you are caught driving under the influence (DUI) with a child in the vehicle. Many people are unaware of this. The common scenario is that the mother is running late and asks the father to pick up the child from school. The father was not expecting the change in plans and had been at happy hour with a couple of his co-workers.

The father then leaves and drives to pick up the child and is pulled over for speeding or swerving and arrested for DUI. Most law enforcement agencies will add the additional charge of child abuse because the individual has intentionally put the child in the vehicle and endangered the child by driving under the influence.

When Abuse Charges Escalate

Some child abuse charges are more severe than others. Aggravated child abuse is committed when a person does one or more of the following:

  • Commits aggravated battery on a child
  • Willfully tortures, maliciously punishes, or willfully and unlawfully cases a child
  • Knowingly or willfully abuses a child and, in so doing, causes great bodily harm, permanent disability or permanent disfigurement to the child

Aggravated child abuse is a first-degree felony, which puts it in the category of the most egregious crimes. Typically, the incidents are very serious and the injuries to the child suggest serious abuse or neglect. With that being said, merely because someone is arrested of aggravated child abuse doesn’t mean that they are guilty.

There are legitimate defenses to these serious allegations, and people can be wrongly accused. It is important to make sure that you hire an experienced and aggressive attorney who is prepared to investigate and analyze your case to ensure that you are not wrongfully convicted. Sometimes, a legitimate explanation can be offered early on in a case to avoid a long, gruesome and expensive criminal defense.

Abuse By Neglect Examples

It is possible to face abuse charges without ever touching a child. Neglect of a child is committed by:

  • A caregiver’s failure or omission to provide a child with the care, supervision and services necessary to maintain the child’s physical and mental health, including, but not limited to, food, nutrition, clothing, shelter, supervision, medicine and medical services that a prudent person would consider essential for the well-being of the child
  • A caregiver’s failure to make a reasonable effort to protect a child from abuse, neglect or exploitation by another person

A person can be convicted of neglect of a child by being culpably negligent. For negligence to be considered “culpable negligence,” it must be gross and flagrant and committed with an utter disregard for the safety of others. Culpable negligence is consciously doing an act or following a course of conduct that the person must have known, or reasonably should have known, was likely to cause death or great bodily harm.

Answering Your Child Abuse Questions

To help give you the information you need, I have taken the time to address some of the more common questions, below.

What are the penalties for child abuse?

Child abuse is a felony of the third degree, which is punishable by up to five years in prison, five years of probation and a $5,000 fine.

Aggravated child abuse is a felony of the first degree, which is punishable by up to 30 years in prison, 30 years of probation and a $10,000 fine.

Neglect of a child that does not result in great bodily harm, permanent disability or permanent disfigurement is a felony of the third degree, which is punishable by up to five years in prison, five years of probation and a $5,000 fine.

Neglect of a child that results in great bodily harm, permanent disability or permanent disfigurement is a felony of the second degree, which is punishable by up to 15 years in prison, 15 years of probation and a $10,000 fine.

What are the defenses for child abuse?

Some common defenses in child abuses cases include:

  • Use of reasonable physical discipline by a parent or person acting in place of a parent
  • False allegations
  • Lack of medical evidence or inconsistent medical evidence
  • Other causes for injury or injury caused by another person
  • Attempt or sufficient efforts made to render care to a child

Can I be prosecuted for failing to report child abuse?

Yes. In the state of Florida, if you suspect or know that a child is or has been abused, then you have a duty to report that abuse to law enforcement. Some professionals are considered mandatory reporters, and this can be confusing. Everyone has a duty to report, and if they do not, then they may be prosecuted. Lay persons are not required to give their names, whereas “mandatory reporters” are so required.

Failure to report child abuse or neglect is a third-degree felony in Florida and can carry a penalty of up to five years in prison along with court costs and fines. When in doubt, report. Do not ignore child abuse and/or child neglect. If you have questions or concerns, consult an experienced child abuse/child neglect lawyer who can guide you through the process. You are not supposed to be the detective, the fact finder or the evidence gatherer. But you do have the duty to report, regardless of your role or profession.

How do I report child abuse/neglect in Florida?

There are numerous ways to report child abuse. First, you can call 911 and report incidents to your local law enforcement agency. You may also call the Florida Abuse Hotline or report online through the Florida Department of Children and Families.

Get The Guidance You Need

If you have questions about the child abuse charges you are facing, contact me today. Call 727-202-4418 or email my firm here for a free initial consultation to discuss your case and learn how I can help.